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Warrant Officer (Ret’d) Delphis Cormier

Delphis Cormier was born in the small town of Atholville, New Brunswick, in 1933. He grew up as Canada and its allies fought for almost six years in the Second World War. With the outbreak of the Korean War, he enlisted in 1950, at 17 years old, to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces.

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Delphis Cormier

Coming from a low-income family, he saw the military as an opportunity to improve his lifestyle.

“I wanted to join the army, and when the Korean War broke out, there was a lot of publicity,” WO (ret’d) Cormier says. “They needed thousands of people to form the Canadian Brigade to go to Korea. I said I was going so I joined the Van Doos.”

Mr. Cormier travelled to Quebec City in October of 1950, and enlisted with the Royal Royal 22e Régiment , also known as the Van Doos. For two months, he and his fellow recruits trained near Valcartier, Quebec. They then took a train to Fort Lewis, an American military base near Tacoma, Washington, to continue training until April 1951, avoiding the bitter Canadian winter.

“It was very, very hard,” Mr. Cormier says. “We learned how to shoot and throw grenades, but I was kind of happy in my new lifestyle.”

“It took about 20 days, we hit terrible storms, people were injured on the boat crossing over, the sea was terrible with storms.”

On 24 April 1951, after six months of training, he began another long journey, boarding an American battleship sailing across the Pacific to Busan, Korea.

“It took about 20 days, we hit terrible storms, people were injured on the boat crossing over, the sea was terrible with storms,” he says.

““There was just poverty everywhere, it’s far from being the Korea of today.”

Once in Busan, the Canadians established a base, and reorganized for the move towards the front lines. They then headed north by train for five hours. For three months, they advanced northwards, helping remove remaining Korean and Chinese forces as the United Nations forces moved northward, before establishing defensive positions near the 38th parallel.

“From June to September, all we did was advance, taking the land that the North Koreans and Chinese had taken, we had it very hard,” he says. “We couldn’t have any showers, we would walk and capture areas, and dig our trenches for the night and sleep in them. We did that for three months.”

“There was just poverty everywhere,” Mr. Cormier says. “It’s far from being the Korea of today.”

At the front lines, their main task was patrolling, searching for enemy forces behind the front lines. In one encounter Mr. Cormier and his men were ambushed. As they fought off the enemy, he helped save some men from being taken prisoner.

He left Korea in April of 1952 and went on to complete his parachutist training, remaining a parachutist until he discharged. At the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953, WO (ret’d) Cormier and the Van Doos had the opportunity to form the guard for twenty four hours at Buckingham Palace.

He went on to serve in Germany from 1953‑1955, during which time Queen Elizabeth presented him the Military Medal, for his actions in the Korean War. After various postings in Canada, including five years as an instructor at Rivers, Manitoba, where he helped train more than one thousand parachutists, he deployed again to Germany from 1964‑1967, where he was married and started a family. He then served on a peacekeeping mission in Cyprus from September 1968 until April 1969.

Mr. Cormier retired from the Canadian Armed Forces in 1975, and went on to work as the general manager of a security company in Quebec for another 25 years before retiring.

He returned to Korea in 1978, on a three week tour of Japan and South Korea.

“When we took Korea, all we saw were ruins and burned houses— it was terrible to see,” WO (ret’d) Cormier says. “When we got there, we fought and liberated the country from the North Koreans and Chinese.”

“I went back in 1978 and I had seen how things had changed in Korea and how they had done marvelous and outstanding things,” he says. “It was definitely not the same Korea. I have a lot of respect for what the Korean people have achieved. It’s both good and bad memories.”

As we remember the Canadians who served in the Korean War and recognize those who lost loved ones in the defence of peace and freedom, Delphis Cormier is this week’s Face of Freedom.

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